Well, on April 26, I did. I ran the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, OH. I'm still trying to process all the moments and emotions that went along with them. In the days leading up to the race, I alternated between moments of extreme calm, panic attacks, and panic attacks because I felt calmer than seemed "normal" before a debut marathon.
During my marathon build-up, my coach and I agreed to intentionally under-train me so I could have a better shot at avoiding injury and making it to the starting line in one piece. So, though we knew it was definitely a big reach, the race plan was to go out on my original goal pace (the Olympic Trials B Standard of sub-2:43) and see how long I could hang on. Brad acknowledged I would probably blow up, but he told me that I would regret it if I didn't at least give myself a chance to hit the standard. Though my personal goal was really to have an enjoyable first marathon experience and finish feeling strong, I agreed to give it a try.
If you ask my dad, he will tell you that I've never been a pleasant person to be around before a race, but I think it helped me a lot to have him there with me. I'm so glad that it worked with his teaching schedule for him to come to my first marathon. My assigned roommate for the hotel the night before the race, Cathy, was also a fantastically calming presence and gave me some great advice. (She obviously knew what she was talking about, because she was the first masters finisher in 3:05!)
Because the hotel was several miles from the starting line, my dad picked me up and drove me to the race. With all the traffic, I didn't think we'd make it in time! But I made it to the Elite tent in time to organize my race gear and go for an easy 1 mile shakeout. Before I knew it, we were on the starting line!
I'm sure I drove everyone around me crazy in the first couple miles because I wouldn't shut up. I was really excited to be there and I was excited to be feeling so comfortable. It was less lonely than I expected, with the half and full marathons running together for the first 8 miles. I was in a nice little group, clicking off the miles pretty evenly...
Mile 1 - 6:14
Mile 2 - 6:15
Mile 3 - 6:11
Mile 4 - 6:15
Mile 5 - 6:15
Mile 6 - 6:13 - took gel #1
Mile 7 - 6:17
Mile 8 - 6:19
... And then I started running into trouble when we split off from the half-marathoners. From there, we headed out on a large and lonely loop with some looooong straightaways.
I noticed there was a woman on a bike riding next to me. The sign on her bike said LEAD FEMALE. Because I had no idea where I was in terms of overall place at that point (I didn't know if the women who had been in front of me were in the full or the half) I asked her "Does that sign on your bike mean what I think it means? That can't be right. Can you ride ahead and check??" She laughed and said she'd be back in a few minutes. Sure enough, there were no women ahead of me, but I was all alone and, starting to get dizzy and nauseous, I was already struggling not to slow even further.
Mile 9 -6:22
Mile 10 - 6:19
Mile 11 - 6:22 - took gel #2
At this point, a woman silently pulled up next to me. Shoot! She pulled out her earbuds to avoid seeming anti-social. I fought hard to try to stay with her, but I just had to let her go. Not long after, I was passed by another woman... and then another. Each had a man with her and I felt more acutely how alone I was. For the first time, I started doubting my ability to even finish.
Mile 12 - 6:17
Mile 13 - 6:24
Mile 14 - 6:24
During training, I had pretty frequent problems with abdominal spasms. When I worked hard, my right side would get really tight and the sharp pain would force me to shorten my stride and shuffle even more than I already do. I spent the next few miles trying to stretch and massage my side, but it just wouldn't relax.
Mile 15 - 6:34
Mile 16 - 6:44 - took gel #3
Mile 17 - 6:58
Mile 18 - 7:02
After gel #3, my stomach couldn't calm down. Every time I took a sip of water, it all threatened to come back up. I forced myself to keep drinking, but I couldn't get myself to take another gel for the rest of the race. I had an emergency ginger capsule tucked in my pocket just in case I had stomach issues, but I couldn't even get that to go down. Thankfully, the dizziness started to dissipate, so at least I had one less thing to worry about.
Mile 19 - 6:51
Mile 20 - 7:04
Mile 21 - 7:04
At 21 miles, we came to the same place where we had earlier split off from the half-marathoners.
(I later found out the women's winner was sent the wrong way and ended up running about an extra mile. Even with that extra mile, she still broke the course record by 6 minutes!!! What a badass!)
Mile 22 - 7:02
Mile 23 - 7:11
Mile 24 - 7:08
The last several miles, I was focused solely on putting one foot in front of the other. I knew if I stopped, I'd never start again. I was in a seriously ugly mental place. At 24 miles, I passed a man who looked exactly how I felt. I tried to offer him a few words of encouragement but, when he asked how I was feeling, I found myself saying "I want my mom!!!" and he said "Me too!" I started bawling my eyes out.
I remembered what my teammate Nicole Camp had told me: "There's no crying in marathon training. But, when you get to Mile 24, you do what you have to to get to that finish line." Thank you for that advice, Nicole! I don't know if you meant it literally, but it worked for me.
Mile 25 - 7:05
Mile 26 - 6:49
For most of the race, I thought of the finish line as some sort of mythical place that didn't actually exist. I didn't believe the finish line was real until I saw it with my own eyes. Thanks to some serious tears, my finish line picture features a very ugly cry face. Yes.
FINISH - 4th place woman in 2:53:31
I found my dad and we did all the things I had to do... Retrieving my finisher's medal, finisher's glass mug, and filling out tax paperwork for my prize money. My dad's flight home from Detroit was in the early afternoon, so we got there quickly, but I wasn't leaving until 8pm, so I had plenty of time to walk around the airport and process. I learned a lot from my first marathon and I'm looking forward to applying those lessons to my next.
I definitely need to work on figuring out my stupid stomach issues and ab spasms. That's a pretty high priority. I also need to work on doing all the little things to prevent injuries so I can train harder next time. Last, even though I plan to be better prepared, I think it would be wise to start more conservatively and in a way that accurately reflects my actual fitness, not where I wish I was. Yes, my coach was probably right that I would have regretted not going for it, but it obviously wasn't the "smart" approach.
I owe a huge THANK YOU to sooooo many people:
- Mom and Dad, I could't do anything without your love and support and I feel so incredibly fortunate to be your daughter. Mom, I miss you more than words can say and I wish you were here.
- Brad Hudson, my coach, thank you for being patient with me and believing in me when even I don't believe in me.
- Alex, I'm so happy to have you by my side in all my adventures and I'm so grateful for your patience when marathon training made me grumpy and I was having taper tantrums.
- Nicole (and Benji), Whitney, Brooke, and Cate - You are all the best teammates and friends I could've asked for. When the marathon got tough, and then when it got REALLY tough, I imagined you by my side and you helped me get through it.
- Henry Guzman of Flatirons Running, Inc. - Thank you for your generous support! I'm so proud to race and train with your logo on my gear!
- HOKA ONE ONE - Thank you for making such fantastic shoes that helped me get through training healthy and got me through all 26.2 miles!
- Ginna Ellis of Boulder AcuSport - Thanks for waking up my lazy glutes and listening patiently to my taper tantrum rants!
- Richey Hansen of High Altitude Spine and Sport - I wouldn't have made it through this training cycle without your help. Thank you for helping put me back together when I get overzealous and break myself!
- My employer, Sean, has been very understanding of my training needs. Thank you for being flexible with my work schedule to allow me to chase my dreams!
- Glass City Marathon and Toledo Roadrunners Club- Thank you for giving me a spot on your starting line and putting me up with an awesome roommate, Cathy, the night before the race! You took great care of your elites and I'm so grateful for your support! I'll definitely be back to run GCM again!
What's next? Well, I jumped back into things a little too quickly after the marathon and ended up with a bit of a knee injury. I'm cautiously declaring it "healed," but I'm going to ease back in more gradually and play things by ear. I hope to spend a lot of my time on the trails this summer and then aim for a fall marathon, TBD. Stay tuned!